09/05/2001 11:00PM

'Lunar' must bounce back

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Still licking his wounds after a thrashing in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, Lunar Bounty races again Saturday at Arlington - the site of his authoritative debut win - where he will be favored to win the $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes.

The Spectacular Bid, at six furlongs, is a stepping-stone to the meet's premier race for 2-year-olds, the Grade 2, one-mile Arlington-Washington Furturity, which would be Lunar Bounty's next start with a good race Saturday.

But first he must validate trainer Ronny Werner's confidence and bounce back from his 17 1/2-length loss on Aug. 15 at Saratoga. "I'm thinking he's going to come out blazing this time," Werner said Thursday from his home in Texas.

Werner, along with his owner Tom Durant, has come to national prominence this year with his group of outstanding 2-year-olds, and the 3-year-old stakes horse Touch Tone. But success has come at a price. When Werner went home this week, it was for the first time in two months. He will watch his two teenage sons play high-school football games late this week before flying early Saturday morning to Chicago, where Lunar Bounty awaits.

Werner said he doesn't like to make excuses for his horses, but something was amiss with Lunar Bounty at Saratoga, and Werner suspects the colt did not care for the racing surface there. Before that start, Lunar Bounty won his June 21 debut here, then easily scored in the Grade 2 Bashford Manor at Churchill. His fondness for the Arlington surface was evident in an Aug. 30 breeze, when Lunar Bounty went five furlongs in a swift 1:00. Regular rider Frank Lovato has a call on the favorite, who breaks from post seven in an eight-horse field.

Breaking just to his outside will be Ammodio, the mystery horse purchased by Darrell and Evelyn Yates after a standout debut win at Finger Lakes. Ammodio ran extremely fast - five furlongs in 58.60 seconds - in his debut, and comes off a 1:00 five-furlong breeze for new trainer Tom Amoss.

There is other speed in race, too. Treasure Run will probably be gunned to the lead from the inside post; Super Striker, third in the Gilded Time stakes here, also will show early speed; and the Bernie Flint-trained J.P. Jet, a stakes winner in Minnesota, has been on the lead in all three of his races. A pace battle leaves the rateable Lunar Bounty, the impressive debut winner Tinker, and the Gilded Time winner Double Zero Seven in the best position to win.

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